Click here for more photos of the New Zealand squad training in Hamilton on Monday.
Pictured above: New Zealand backs Aaron Mauger and Joe Rokocoko warm up before training at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium on Monday. Mauger, 25, has been chosen to partner Ma’a Nonu at centre for Saturday’s first Test – it will be the former Suttonians player’s fifth appearance against Ireland. He made his Test debut for the All Blacks at Lansdowne Road in November 2001.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry has included two debutants – prop Clarke Dermody and lock Greg Rawlinson – in his starting line-up for the first Test against Ireland. Three more uncapped players are on the bench.
Henry explained: “Every selection is influenced by who you’re playing. Our aim is to play two quick guys initially and to bring other people on who are better off coming in as substitutes because they’ve played a lot of football.
“We’ve got a game plan for this fixture and you know how we play the game generally. We like to attack and I’m sure we’ll try to attack at the weekend.”
11-cap centre Ma’a Nonu throws a pass out with Byron Kelleher in support.
The presence of Durban-born lock Greg Rawlinson in the squad has buoyed All Blacks forwards coach Steve Hansen. He said: “We’re loving having Greg here. His enthusiasm is rubbing off on other people. He’s a talented player, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning him on the way we do things up front and our systems and patterns.
“He’s confident and looking forward to Saturday.”
The 22-year-old out-half Luke McAlister who will fill Dan Carter’s boots on Saturday. The Waitara-born starlet has only started one previous Test match for the All Blacks – last July’s third Test win over the Lions in Auckland.
An Auckland Blue, McAlister was used as a replacement during the 2005 Tri Nations games against South Africa (twice) and Australia (twice).
Chiefs scrum half Byron Kelleher fires a pass out at training. The 29-year-old has played twice previously against Ireland – he scored a try in Ireland’s second Test defeat to the All Blacks in Auckland in June 2002.
Kelleher sat out last November’s meeting between the sides with Piri Weepu starting.
Flying Fijian-born winger Joe Rokocoko was another player to miss last November’s 45-7 win over Ireland. Indeed, the 23-year-old is yet to play a Test match against Ireland – he played three times for the All Blacks on last autumn’s Grand Slam tour against Wales, England and Scotland.
Rokocoko boasts a brilliant try-scoring record of 30 tries in 30 games. His last run of scores came during the 2005 Tri Nations tournament – he notched three in two games against South Africa and Australia.
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**